What is the place of nature in our lives? This is especially poignant for the half of humanity that now lives in cities. Cites are an overt subjugation of nature, and many attempts to green the city are mere appliques.
However, research does show that nature, even in inspecific terms, has restorative capabilities. The bargain of the city is that people gain other things, like society, money, and opportunity (or at least the pursuit of these things). Nature may be an essential need, but food and shelter are even more essential.
Green does not figure in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Perhaps it is just assumed among the Eloi. Green neighborhoods are almost certainly wealthier neighborhoods. Keeping nature alive in a paved world costs money, time, and attention. Thing poor communities do not have in rich supply. Confounding wealth with green is hard to test systematically, but easy enough to document.
In cities where mobility is valued over exercise, nature is not valued as much as technology. The arc of civilization has the been th abstraction of nature. While the Yanamano or Huli know the meaning of many parts of many plants in all the seasons, Ulrich is only able to identify “Deciduous” Trees. This is no dishonor, as we have other things to pay attention to. We are not able to tell each other much about the working s of a steam engine or a horsedrawn carriage, either. The notion of nature is already an abstracted thing.
But is that a bad thing. The papers show the generic benefits of nature, does it matter that nature is not seen as a tapestry so much as a textile? It does not, for humanity’s purposes.
There is still a tension between nature and the city, and the tension is not just one way. Of course the city is a renunciation of nature, of course metropolitan citizens can reduce their impact on nature by living in the city. But the recent movements of low impact development and landscape urbanism threaten the spacing of urbanity that makes them walkable. Giving too much space to nature provides inadequate nature rending the urban fabric that makes them function as cities. Green in the city is currently unbalanced towards the gray, but that does not mean that we should unbalance it to the green.